- Wendy Lee
- Marianne MacPherson
- Lynn Rupe
- Lorraine Sands
- Kathryn Delany
- Carol Marks
- Anita Homewood
- Jo Colbert
- Michelle Flower
- Harriet O'Sullivan
- Nicky de Lautour
- Maria Sydney
- Christine Bailey
- Jacki Jensen
- Catalina Thompson
Wendy is the Director of the Educational Leadership Project (Ltd), a professional learning provider for the early childhood sector in New Zealand. Wendy has been involved in early childhood education (ECE) field over the last 45 years as a teacher, tutor, lecturer, manager, professional development facilitator and researcher.
She has collaborated with Professor Margaret Carr on a number of research projects including:
During this period she was Co-Director with Margaret of the National Early Childhood Assessment and Learning Exemplar Project that developed the Kei Tua o te Pae books on assessment for learning for the NZ early childhood sector.
Wendy has a deep interest in curriculum, advocacy and leadership issues in ECE. She is very enthusiastic about the power of documentation to strengthen the learner identity of children and is passionate about the importance of the outdoors for all children.
She has presented at conferences on ECE curriculum, leadership and learning stories throughout the world, including the Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany, Japan, Iceland, Belgium, the USA, the United Arab Emirates, Norway, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia and Sweden. Wendy has been working with teachers and government officials all over the world, sharing the work of New Zealand early childhood teachers for over a decade.
As an indication of this work, Wendy has worked in the following places:
Wendy also works throughout New Zealand giving keynotes and workshops, such as:
The Power and the Passion of the teacher:
Wendy believes that at the heart of teaching are relationships. Te Whāriki states this as a central principle and goes on to describe, within Ngā Hononga (Relationships), the following: ‘Adults provide encouragement, warmth, and acceptance. They also provide challenges for creative and complex learning and thinking, helping children to extend their ideas and actions through sensitive, informed, well-judged interventions and support.’
A successful, accepting teaching approach through relationship building may be a main foundation to optimising a child’s learning environment, but Wendy also believes that teachers must reflect upon and understand themselves in order to succeed. How do we ensure that, as individuals, our power as a teacher/educator is optimised? What do we need to do to ensure that we are the best we can be? Wendy is interested in exploring what it means to be a teacher and encourages teachers to explore what theories influence their practice and whether they use these in an intentional way. Understanding our own pedagogy, our beliefs and values, and how these are constantly influencing our teaching, is in Wendy’s opinion central to the inspirational teacher. She has recently co-authored a book on Te Whariki entitled: Understanding the Te Whariki Approach: Early Years Education in Practice.
Leadership and Organisational Culture
The literature on leadership is vast and the question has often been asked “what do leaders need to know?” Wendy has discussed this question with many teachers and has come up with some powerful indicators of strong and rich learning communities that she believes strongly impact on the leadership in an early childhood setting. She believes we need committed and responsive leaders at all levels and we should be concerned with both personal and professional qualities to meet the challenges ahead. In summary some of her ideas are:
Conjure up close collaboration and partnerships in your early childhood setting and recognize the importance of teacher presence. Transform relationships with children, parents and teachers to make them reciprocal, authentic and effective.
An organisation is strengthened when everyone feels there is a strong sense of moral purpose (courage, justice, caring and excellence). Many teachers enter teaching because of strong altruistic goals to make a difference in children’s lives
Change the organizational culture of your early childhood setting with a strong focus on positivity. Nurture children’s, parents and teachers passions taking account of the holistic nature of learning and teaching. Above all, experience joy!
Leaders who are eloquent, persuasive, strong, energetic and willing to contribute to the community nurture democracy and create social justice. It is important that every teacher, child and parent find their ‘voice’. Every teacher, child and parent has the right to be engaged in leadership.
Wendy believes that we now need to bring magic into every early childhood setting, more than ever before. We need to articulate and make visible our morals and ethics in our efforts to make a difference for children and families. We need to have the courage to mobilize our ideas and the value of learning in the wider community and we should take the risk to be playful and promote merriment. These attributes are needed to build communities where people are encouraged by shared spirit, passion and effort to be the very best they can be and to realize possibilities they have never imagined.
Learning Stories (Assessment and Planning) and Communities of Practice
Learning Stories are a philosophy for assessment, not a format! They provide a valuable opportunity to document and weave connections from prior experiences to future learning, and form most of the content of children’s portfolios in New Zealand early childhood settings. Wendy has written for and talked with teachers in many countries about the value of Learning Stories as a mode of formative assessment. Learning Stories show progress and make learning visible to the child, the family and the teaching community. They also explore how to document children's learning in a way that is meaningful, effective, and inclusive so that it makes a real difference. As a celebration of children's learning, ELP has found that Learning Stories are fit for purpose! Wendy has co-authored a book on Learning Stories with Margaret Carr “Learning Stories: Constructing Learner identity in the early years”.
In February 2017, based on readers' feedback, major educational book publishers' recommendations and a group of expert judges' opions, two of the books that Wendy has co-authored were chosen to be translated into Chinese. Click here to read more.
Learning Stories have provided teachers in New Zealand with many rewarding and effective ways to help children and their families see and participate in the learning process, and also provide the trace of the teacher’s professional life. It is a privilege to enter children’s lives in this way and also to document their learning in ways that will ensure that the stories hold the test of time. These are stories that will be read not only by children and their families now and in the future, but also by future generations who will witness the joy of their forebearers’ learning lives through writing and reflection. Learning Stories provide a richness of opportunity on so many levels to strengthen the identity and competence of the learner (children and teachers).
In Kei Tua o te Pae – Assessment for Learning: Early Childhood Exemplars (Carr, Lee and Jones 2005, 2007, 2009), Wendy collaboratively wrote about some very important elements that teachers need to reflect upon and consider when writing Learning Stories to record and assess children’s learning. These elements provide useful guidelines for helping teachers to deepen and strengthen their writing of Learning Stories. Discussions on the elements of Learning Stories in a collaborative group of teachers is recommended as a powerful source for reflection, growth and change.
Here are some starter questions to ponder that consider these elements of Learning Stories:
Learning Stories provide powerful pathways to engage everyone - children, parents, teachers, and the wider community - providing opportunities for the community of practice to become more strongly interconnected through narrative assessment and working as a collaborative team. There are both expected and unexpected outcomes when the whole community works together creating, contributing, communicating, and collaborating. Assessment can contribute powerfully to these reciprocal relationships that enrich teaching as learning journeys. Wendy believes assessment practice has the capability to not only improve learning opportunities for children but to potentially change the culture of early childhood centres and communities.
Wendy wants to share some of the practical strategies developed by teachers throughout New Zealand and around the world, which are now changing the landscape of connections across early childhood communities. Communities of practice are being nourished with ideas and reflections that build a commitment to each other and bring into view the power of listening deeply; being present; and creating opportunities to connect, communicate, and contribute.
Stories of Interest/Planning Stories
Wendy is very interested in how Stories of Interest/Planning Stories can provide robust, documented evidence of teaching and learning outcomes in an interesting and accessible way. Wendy is committed to looking closely at planning in this way for individual children, as well as groups of children. She has a deep interest in the development of both 'Stories of Interest' and 'Planning Stories' which draw together Learning Stories, teacher reflection and intentions, community involvement, child, parent and family voice into powerful documentation which provide rich information to grow a community and also provide effective accountability.
Wendy is passionate about Nature Education and how we go about capturing the spirit of the outdoors through our documentation. It is a time of crisis not only for the global world in terms of its environment but also, much closer to home, for our youngest citizens. Many ECE environments currently lack connection with nature and ‘beyond-the-gate’ is not explored, however, children who do not experience nature and the outdoors are very unlikely to develop an affinity for and protect the environment in the future.
Some years ago, John Bennett from OECD said ‘do not steal the childhood of the child’. For many, these words have clearly not been heard. Today’s children are largely imprisoned and institutionalised in many early childhood institutions that lack connection with nature on many levels. The culture of some settings are dominated by routines and rigid schedules, the environments are largely plastic and unimaginative. Many adults today have experienced childhoods that involved roaming our communities and exploring the natural environment, experiencing joy, wonder and delight as they freely engaged in the environment. These opportunities are not available for so many children today as irrational fear becomes a dominant discourse in raising children and screens have replaced the outdoors.
It is now well evidenced in research that children who spend time in the outdoors perform better educationally, not just in the traditional subjects of reading and mathematics but also well beyond this into the areas of life long learning. They get excited and energized about learning when exposed to the outdoors.
Leaders therefore have a responsibility to be powerful advocates for reconnecting children the outdoors. One of the most effective ways of doing this is day-to-day documentation of a learning setting’s activity. Wendy believes that Learning Story philosophy provides a powerful vehicle to not only build the learner identity of the child, but to create opportunities to be a powerful advocate for the outdoors.
Empathy and Social Competence
Current research indicates that the children around the world are less empathic today and this has huge ramifications for their learning and for humanity. Teachers and educators now need to provide children with opportunities to develop and strengthen dispositions like empathy as part of the pedagogical outcomes in early childhood settings. Wendy endorses the use of documentation and Learning Stories to advocate and strengthen these qualities in children’s lives, as well as the revisiting of this documentation by the learning community.
Assessment cannot only influence children’s empathy and thereby strengthen their social emotional and relational dispositions in early childhood settings, but also has the power to strengthen children’s identity around empathy and improve social competence.
A Growth Mindset – Learn it! Live it! Teach it!
For some the opportunity to explore the the impact of Carol Dweck's work on pedagogical practice will be an illuminating experience. For others it is an opportunity to revisit and deepen understandings, to look thoughtfully at the ways in which you can ensure that the work of Carol Dweck is impacting not only on the lives of children but also life as a teacher and mentor. Wendy is very interested in the work of Carol Dweck who so eloquently says "A growth mindset educator is someone who portrays skills to the children as acquirable, is someone who values passion, effort, improvement, not just natural talent. They are people who present themselves as mentors and collaborators with their children and not someone who judges who are the clever ones and who are not."
At the same time Wendy likes to explore some of the potential disadvantages of such views and the implications of Carol Dweck’s work. For example Alfie Kohn once wrote the remarkable book Punished by Rewards (Kohn, 1993). In this book, he demonstrates that using rewards to get something done from people is often ineffective and even harmful and sums up ways in which praising people can be detrimental to performance. Alfie Kohn also discusses the potential risk of teachers focussing on the individual entirely instead of addressing the wider structural issues. For example, does the environment provide ‘something of interest’ for the child; are their deeply interested adults in this environment etc.
Is ICT a help or a hindrance to assessment in ECE?
Wendy is a passionate advocate for e-portfolios and paper-based portfolios because of her long involvement with Learning Stories (Carr & Lee, 2012). She believes both e-portfolios and paper-based portfolios are essential, but for different reasons. Paper-based portfolios are critical for young children, whereas e-portfolios are primarily for adults (i.e. parents and whānau). The idea of having just an e-portfolio for young children in early childhood settings is, in Wendy’s opinion, wrong and a cave-in to slick marketing and cost-saving. She believes it indicates little thought about the implications for children and their learning and diminishes the documentation of children’s learning lives through paper-based portfolios which have the power to support and construct learner identity. Developing processes that hold the test of time are important and paper-based portfolios do this. Both paper-based or a e-based portfolios are useful, but written, paper-based portfolios can be expected to promote language, build identity and endure.
Wendy is also deeply interested in developing documentation that is central to building the learner identity of the child. This is not achieved when documentation is carried out primarily to meet accountability measures. Sometimes technology hinders engagement and deep connections. i.e. Are e-Portfolios are dumbing down or enhancing roles as a thoughtful and reflective professional teachers? Has the dangers of technology for very young children been considered? Only focused and thoughtful pedagogical documentation will make a difference to the child’s learning life. If the documentation is reflective and makes visible the learning of the child, then Wendy believes it will have the potential to meet many accountability requirements while also building learner identity.
Wendy believes it is also becoming increasingly important that we make visible the joy, wonder and magic we experience as teachers to children and their families. We need to consider our moral and ethical responsibilities as we strive to make a difference for these learning communities. It will be the courage of teachers and those working directly with children that will ensure that not only are the wider values of education protected, but that everyone in the learning community has opportunities to be the very best they can be and thereby realizing possibilities that may be unimagined in the past.
Being an activist: Testing times in ECE
Phone: 07 856 8708
Marianne has a Bachelor of Teaching (Auckland University) teaching in Auckland kindergartens for over 20 years before joining Educational Leadership in 2013. Developing responsive and reciprocal relationships with a view to dignifying the life of all who are a part of the learning community is at the heart Marianne’s philosophy.
“Working within the richness of the cultural diversity in the Auckland area the concept of ako is important to me. Building respectful relationships with teachers and children responsive to their cultural settings supports me to work alongside teachers acknowledging that learning happens most powerfully when we are responsive to and respectful of each others strengths, passions and cultural knowledge”
Facilitating cluster based programmes supporting teaching teams inquiry into strengthening early literacy, mathematics and leadership with the interweaving of bi-cultural practices over the past 3 years I am passionate about working alongside and supporting teachers in centre based inquiry responsive to their community and cultural context or their settings. This involves reflective, thoughtful and meaningful professional learning, centered around an inquiry question embodying the notion of dignity and empowerment for all – children, whānau and teachers and acknowledging the important place of language culture identity.
Planning and Assessment
The transformative power of learning stories I find myself increasingly reflecting on and sharing as I work with teachers supporting them in strengthening their assessment documentation in response to the interwoven nature of the principles and strands of Te Whāriki and aligned to the values of their Philosophy. Meaningful analysis of learning happens when teachers move beyond pulling out ‘learning outcomes’ to understanding the theory, research and practice that sit behind the principles, strands and outcomes and connect to Te Whāriki as a socio-cultural and bi-cultural curriculum. Building teacher knowledge through inquiry research and working to keep this up-to-date is where the deeper understanding about learning starts to happen and this becomes a transformative process as teachers actively engage in this research resulting in strengthened planning and programmes responsive to children’s learning pathways.
Transition to School
I have a real interest in research and programmes in response to strengthening dispositional teaching and learning and the importance of building positive learner identity. Understanding dispositions as well as a strong sense of identity and belonging are recognised as supporting successful transitions to school and I am particularly interested in working alongside teachers supporting continuity of learning through this dispositional lens including how the learning community - children, families and teachers and others - grow in understanding and recognition of dispositions that are valued and how these are cultivated or encultured in and across learning environments.
Language Leading the way to Literacy
Becoming a Hanen Trained facilitator of the Learning Language and Loving it programme has offered me the opportunity to facilitate this programme within early childhood settings in South Auckland through SELO. This programme supports teachers in recognising the importance of oral language leading the way to literacy within play based programmes and in working with children for whom English is a second language.
“This programme is an eye opener for all of us. It was a well structured programme and our facilitator unpacked the strategies in a very good way. She explained to us in response to our individual needs. The centre visits and video-coaching supported us. We are more confident and giving children more opportunities to communicate. It has made a difference” The Children’s Corner, Papatoetoe.
Phone: 027 271 0382
Over the past 20 years Lynn has worked inside community organisations and childcare settings to promote success for children within her local community. Lynn’s focus has been that quality early education supports success in later life therefore she has passionately concentrated on the early childhood sector over the last 10 years. “Strong early learning experiences provide critical foundations for success in later education.” (Ka Hikitia)
Lynn’s experience in the early childhood sector has been as a teacher and Centre Manager. Since 2008 Lynn has worked with inquiry research either as a teacher supported by ELP or as an ELP Facilitator supporting others to strengthen their understanding of teaching and learning therefore creating better outcomes for children. Inquiry research structured around RBA questions that ask: Where are we now? How will we work together? How will we get there? How will we measure progress? What have we learnt?, have drawn teachers and whānau into meaningful conversations that have stretched teaching practices, created authentic partnerships and provide evidence of shifts in practice.
Statement on Lynn’s interest in quality teaching and learning
Lynn is particularly enthusiastic about community and relationships, believing that assessment, especially Learning Stories, can bring about a deeper connectedness between those within the early childhood community and beyond. Lynn acknowledges that research shows collaboration between the parent, the child and the teacher creates multiple perspectives of the child, which allows for deeper, more meaningful learning for all involved.
There are many curriculum areas that Lynn has focused on since starting with ELP in 2012. Through individual centre support and wider cluster based professional learning Lynn has provide thoughtful provocation for teachers to stretch their knowledge and practice in areas of infants and toddlers, leadership, literacy, mathematics, bicultural practice and deeply understanding the principles of Te Whāriki. Also through inquiry research Lynn has supported teachers to thoughtfully align their local curriculum to Te Whāriki as they take into consideration:
Strengthen continuity across early childhood and primary school
Taking the idea of collaboration and conversations through Learning Story assessment has allowed Lynn to support teachers in both primary and the early childhood sectors to create continuity of learning for children. At the heart of developing wonderful pathways to school is the notion of strong triadic relationship between teachers from both sectors, whānau and children. Supporting teachers within ECE and primary to create a shared language of learning through Learning Story assessment conversations and hui is something Lynn has passionately engaged in with main teachers throughout New Zealand.
Strengthening Kaupapa Māori
Regardless of the internal evaluation focus Lynn has supported teachers to include reflection on language, culture and identity into their inquiry research question. Considering the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitanga, and the words of Ka Hikitia and Tātaiako broadens the inquiry and ensures that teachers are strengthening their bicultural practices in an embedded way.
Lynn has a strong personal and professional commitment to see tamariki build resilience through acceptance, acknowledgement and celebration of their culture, language and identity. Lynn’s mokopuna and children whakapapa to Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Maniapoto. While Lynn acknowledges the cultural heritage of her whānau she understand the she cannot be and expert in their culture. This knowledge enables her to support teachers to “shift their practice from a view of themselves as ‘experts’ to a view of themselves as facilitators of culturally inclusive practice (Ritchie, 2003:17), characterised by collaboration and genuine power sharing (Ka Hikitia, 2008)”. (Ngā Taonga Whakaako: Bicultural competence in early childhood, Williams, Broadly & Te-Aho, 2012)
The principles of Te Whāriki guide my practice as a facilitator - whakamana, kotahitanga, whānau tangata and ngā hononga are embedded in the way I collaborate with teachers. Understanding that these principles are relevant to all involved in early childhood in foundational to Lynn’s kaupapa on teaching and learning for all ages.
Lynn has lead a centre as the Centre Manager, not a title she would use, but what Lynn would call herself was Centre Kaitiaki. Leadership belongs to everyone, a quote from Sergiovanni, and when it does there is collective ownership for the professional practice in the centre. Lynn has whole-hearted supported centres to consider how to grow a more distributed/shared leadership model knowing that this will make a difference to the outcomes for children. Fullan (2011. p.82) wrote that great leaders assist others to become leaders. Early childhood leadership should also reflect the principles of Te Whāriki. Most importantly professional trust is the basic ingredient of cooperation and this can lead to improved team collaboration, therefore growing a motivated leaderful teaching team.
Phone: 027 278 8879
Meet Lynn and her whānau
Lorraine has worked for ELP with teachers across all diverse settings in Aotearoa New Zealand since 2001. During this time she has drawn on her work at Greerton Early Childhood to support teachers to build learning cultures that enable each and every child to thrive as they begin to develop their learning identities. Lorraine has thought deeply about how current theory and research might be integrated into children’s, families’ and teachers’ learning lives in natural ways, that enable children’s learning identities to flourish. As the Greerton teaching team witnessed children shaping and re-shaping their knowledge, experimenting, testing, and re-testing, in an effort to deepen and broaden their understanding of the world around them, the investigative nature of the children’s learning excited us. The team began to understand that relationships are the key to building a vibrant, robust learning community, and committed to finding ways to understand how the concept of Whanaungatanga cements our relationships together. This was the impetus for the team to seek opportunities to research our learning context through the Ministry of Education’s Centre of Innovation Research programme”. As a result, Lorraine has shared many of the research outcomes over time with teachers across New Zealand and beyond, in lecture series in the UK, Germany and China. ELP have and are committed to ensuring children have a learning context that excites their passions, energies and spirits. During Lorraine's work with ELP her intention has always been to engage with teachers in meaningful ways to shift their image of children so, in Wally Penitio’s words they “see the child as ‘vibrant, expressive and impressive’ (2001)”.
With the view that children ought to be designers of their own learning, the work Lorraine shares with teachers across many settings, follows children’s, family/whānau and teachers’ experiences as they explore the possibilities offered in environments that start first with Relationships, Language, Identity and Culture. This foundation enables everyone to go beyond their comfort zones into complex play and adventurous learning that relies on a growing sense of fair mindedness; on care and kindness to stretch learning to the edge and beyond, with and alongside their friends. It is this context of learning and teaching as ‘collaborative endeavour’ that captivates teacher’s interest to find out more about what kinds of settings and relationships make a difference to children’s learning. It is Lorraine's intention to disrupt conventional thinking through examples that show invested teaching that includes; co-construction between children and teachers, sustained shared teaching episodes extending children’s thinking, valuing of children’s contribution to the learning experience and making links across time by revisiting children’s ideas and interests.
Teachers are most able to explore these ideas through inquiry based research when there is a deep motivation generated by credit based research questions. When we see children too, as ‘inquirers’, we are primed to make shifts in our practice because we are open to deeply listen to and respect children’s capacity to stretch their learning, practice the hard, tricky bits, and understand that worthwhile learning takes time, persistence, energy and a very big measure of resilience and resourcefulness. Teachers who support this kind of learning enable children to develop an attitude to learning that results in not giving up, pushing through to the edge and beyond, and working in collaborative, social, cultural ways that enhances everyone in the learning community. Inquiry research is the vehicle that deepens and broadens our understanding of what it takes to build a vibrant learning community where everyone is able to flourish.
Aligning Internal Evaluation, Staff Appraisal, Tātaiako and Teaching Practicing Certificate Evidence through Inquiry based research
Lorraine believes that it makes sense to question our practice through thoughtful investigation. In her work with teachers she supports them to focus together on an inquiry research / internal evaluation question to take their team forward into shared understanding of what makes a difference in the learning lives of their community. In this style of professional learning support, teachers begin to stretch their professional practice in ways that make an enduring difference to children’s identities as learners. This kind of collaboration means that teachers’ individual growth is inextricably connected to their team’s wellbeing, as learners together, acting in ways that show they care deeply that everyone’s learning lives are affirmed and stretched through credit based inquiry. This requires a growth mindset. Teachers set goals that are edgy and interesting, with high expectation that effort, hard work, community connectedness, surprise and uncertainty, passion and energy, will drive their investigations. This means inquiry based research that sees the Teachers’ Practising Certificate and Tātaiako as a cohesive, holistic framework, rather than as discreet indicators.
Whenever Lorraine works with teaching teams they have conversations about the value of Play in children’s lives. They start with understanding that ‘play’, uninterrupted, complex opportunities for children to be in charge of their learning, is the key. It is in play that children are able to experience every aspect of social competency, of resilience, of social justice and resourcefulness. These are the building blocks of a strong identity as a learner who will be successful long term. We are not filling children up with skills and knowledge in isolation. The dispositional strengths of children are the key to growing skills and understanding inside an environment that models wise practice. When children see teachers being kind, helping each other, prepared to have fun, take risks and challenge themselves, then they in turn do the same. Our job is to set up opportunities for long periods of play and add value through meaningful, interesting conversation and provocations that stretch children’s learning without hi-jacking it. Not in a way that we ‘teach’ but in an enthusiastic, puzzling, creative approach to learning. First we must understand what play looks like and see the learning inside this.
Strengthening Continuity across early childhood and primary school
Lorraine has had the great pleasure of working with teachers across ECE and primary. In our research we have realised what a crucial part the leaders of early childhood centres and primary schools play in opening the doors for relationships to be able to grow. For our part, we all want to find additional ways to be responsive to children’s transitional learning. Lorraine's work with teachers has been to support teaching teams to strive to have an image of children as researchers, learners out to explore their world with dispositions like curiosity and purposefulness driving their investigations. From this perspective our transition practice then seeks to share this view, in the new context of school, with the child’s teacher. When children are able to explore their working theories with creative flair, energy that comes from the motivation of a passionate inquirer, inside a community of learners that values effort, practice, thoughtfulness and social collaboration, the learning that results is imaginative. Making this learning visible through Learning Story narrative assessment, that track continuity over time, results in less pressure for the schoolification of young children and instead pushes the pedagogy of complex play up into school.
Phone: 021 706 585
Kathryn has nearly 40 years experience in the Early Childhood Education sector. She started with a strong interest in her own children’s learning as a Playcentre parent. Kathryn has a Bachelor of Teaching and Learning. She has been a Childcare and Kindergarten teacher. Kathryn has been employed with the Educational Leadership Project as a Professional Learning Facilitator for 12 years. Kathryn is passionate about providing our tamariki and mokopuna with high quality education and developing teacher capacity and capability through professional learning opportunities.
”I experienced first hand the transformative process in my teaching practice through the introduction and engagement with the socio-cultural curriculum, Te Whāriki and narrative assessment. I am passionate about supporting teachers in transforming their practice by reviewing and evaluating the process of teaching by enacting the Principles and Strands of Te Whāriki.
Leadership and Inquiry
It is my privilege to be part of a process of transformation through participation in professional learning that improves outcomes for children. I consider myself to be a life-long learner and the notion of manaakitanga and ‘ako’ are strong in my practice. My strengths lie in my own pedagogical leadership and knowledge. I believe that supporting its development in teachers and leaders using Internal Evaluation as teacher inquiry in all aspects of Early Years education is vital to their professional growth and lifelong learning. I have been involved in most aspects of professional learning facilitation. This includes, Te Whāriki, Kei tua o te Pae, Biculturalism, Te Whatu Pokeka, Literacy, Mathematics, Leadership, Infants and Toddlers and Governance and Management.”
Kindness, and loving are now a big part of my life and I see this as the curriculum for life long learning. I have the honour to have a grandmothers/teachers gaze at little children and their learning and am very excited at what the future holds for them and us.
Phone: 027 366 1013
Carol has over 40 years experience in early childhood and has seen many changes in legislation, programming, environments, and practice during that time. Her own childhood in the King Country has left her with lasting happy memories which are brought to life again through current theory on the importance of play for young children in developing the skills, knowledge and dispositions which enable them to meet the challenges of an uncertain world.
"ELP has been intertwined in my teaching since 2001 and this has impacted on my practice as I have worked alongside children and families. Working with ICTs to enhance learning has been an interest over the past few years and I was chosen as an e-learning fellow in 2006. Gaming is an area where I continue to explore learning possibilities for young children.”
Statement on my interest in quality teaching and learning
Strengthening Early Learning Opportunites (SELO) for the Ministry of Education
Strengthening Kaupapa Māori
Working with lnfants and Toddlers
Planning and Assessment
Phone: 027 437 3755
Anita has been working in Early Childhood Education for over 20 years now, enjoying opportunities to grow her teaching learning philosophy. She has had experience in all aspects of ECE, working as a teacher, and in leadership and curriculum development. Anita is passionate about supporting teachers in their teaching learning journeys, strengthening their practice and inspiring them to grow as professionals.
Anita has had the privilege of being both a participant and a facilitator in the ELP professional learning clusters. Being a participant in the infant and toddler cluster in 2005 was a turning point for Anita, leading her on a journey to creating programmes and environments for infants and toddlers. Anita believes that as early childhood educators, we have the opportunity to be innovative thinkers and creators of new ways of supporting learning and development for children. She has facilitated cluster groups, using Inquiry-based Research as a way of strengthening teaching and learning and have enjoyed seeing the shifts in practice and the positive impact this has made on children’s learning.
Curriculum and Assessment
Anita has worked with teams on implementing Te Whāriki into daily practice and bringing it to the forefront in Learning Stories. When we think of Learning Stories as a way of assessment, we are open to seeing children’s learning in a variety of ways, not just a single story. It has been exciting to see teams gaining a understanding of Learning Stories, with a commitment to taking the learning deeper, as well as being intentional in how to further support children’s exploration and learning.
Infant and Toddler Learning and Development
Anita is very passionate about providing our youngest learners with the best start to life and learning. She has worked and led teams in developing programmes designed specifically for infants and toddlers. Anita has been inspired by the work of Magda Gerber and Dr Emmi Pikler, where Care is the Curriculum, and seeing our youngest learners as able to take the lead in their learning and loves how this weaves in beautifully with our national curriculum, Te Whāriki, in particular the principles. At the heart of both is Relationship, working in partnership with child, whānau and teachers, to support learning and development. This is built on the foundation of Respectful and Reflective Practice. Nature and sustainability is important to Anita and she works with teams to create environments and offering children experiences with this in mind.
Teacher Registration Mentoring
Anita had had the privilege of supporting a number of teachers toward full registration, providing advice and guidance. It is inspiring to see teachers grow as reflective practitioners, critical thinkers and advocates for children’s learning and development.
Governance and Management
Anita has helped to set up early childhood centres, including setting up the environment and organising policies and procedures. She has supported centres with strategic and annual planning, and philosophy development.
Phone: 021 260 7081
Jo has a Bachelor of Teaching and has been a teacher in a variety of ECE settings including Kindergarten, a creche, full day ECE settings as well as being a Play Centre Parent. Her most recent teaching experience was at Glamorgan Kindergarten in 2014 for a term. Previous to this her last long term job was at Westmere kindergarten where she was head teacher for 8 years.
In 2005, Jo was selected as one of ten teachers to represent New Zealand at the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Conference in Seoul. She was also the first early childhood E-Fellow 2005 (a Ministry funded teacher release contract). Her research was titled “Can the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) enhance the complexity, connections and continuity of young children’s story telling?”
Jo has been working with Educational Leadership for the last 11 years and has many highlights through this time, including working with teachers through out New Zealand and overseas. Jo is currently teaching at Chelsea Kindergarten, loving working alongside Julie Killick and Joanne Behse, putting into practice what she has shared with teachers over the years. Jo is available through ELP for private evening work in the Auckland area.
Inquiry Based Learning
I have been supporting teaching teams with Internal Evaluation and work with an Inquiry based learning model, the shifts that happen for individuals and teams through this process strengthens outcomes for children as well as strengthening teachers reflective practice. Teams I work with I encourage to develop a research question and indicators to support their question, this process indicates action is going to happen and teachers will be the people leading this action and change. For many teams this is the first time they have worked collaboratively on an inquiry based review and they find it really brings the team together sharing a common goal and having regular time to discuss and share learning.
Te Whāriki underpins everything I do within my practice from working with children, to working with teaching teams and colleagues. In particular the Principles of Te Whāriki, relationships, empowerment, holistic development and family and community are central to the way I live my life and the way I am everyday in my place of work. This is not just a curriculum that guides us in the way we work with children and families, it is also a document with principles to guide us in the way we work and interact with each other on a daily basis.
I have worked on the Ministry funded Te Whāriki contract where I supported teachers to deepen their understandings of what a socio-cultural curriculum looks like in everyday practice and through this Professional Development, I too gained a deeper understanding of living Te Whāriki, it is way more than implementing Te Whāriki, it is a lived curriculum and has changed the way I am as a teacher and the way I view the world.
I have a deep interest in socio-cultural assessment, learning stories and planning and have seen the difference this can make for outcomes for children. In particular I am very interested in the continuity of learning, documenting progress for a child or for groups of children. Reflecting on the learning happening for children overtime with a dispositional lens, and encouraging teachers to write from their hearts when they write a learning story. This shifts teachers to a different place in their writing.. For many years now the bulk of my work has been about supporting teachers to deepen their understandings of what socio-cultural learning, teaching and assessment look like in every day practice and as a consequence of this my own understandings of the theory underpinning learning, teaching and assessment has strengthened. My own philosophy is strengthened by the work of Margaret Carr, Guy Claxton, Carol Dweck and Wendy Lee, whose principles I take into my daily life when working with teachers and with children.
At the heart of what I do in my work with teachers is relationships I think basically if we think of Te Whāriki in regards to not only guide us in the way we interact with children, it is also applicable to us as teachers and the way we interact with each other. What particularly resonates with me is the children's questions, 'Do you know me, Can I trust you, Do you hear me, Do you let me fly and Is this place fair for us? If we keep these to the forefront of our minds then I think this is a framework for guiding me in the establishment and ongoing maintaining of relationships, with teachers, with children, with whānau and with the wider community.
Information and Communication Technologies
I am passionate about the use of ICT to support children’s learning and am very confident in this area. I work in responsive ways, listening, watching, engaging and supporting children’s interests in what ever way I can. I do see my self as a learner and researcher alongside children and other adults. A shared understanding between the teaching team about children’s learning, is critical for collaborative teaching and this happens through the day to day professional discussions and sharing the assessments of children’s learning.
Phone: 021 485 523
I gained my Bachelor of Education (ECE), and Certificate in Adult Teaching as an adult student. I have 22 years of teaching experience across a broad range of early childhood settings including Playcentre, home-based care, and community based early learning centres. 13 years in a Centre Manager role. ELP Facilitators have been my critical friends during this time and we have worked on inquiries in distributed leadership, companionship, boys in play, literacy, and mathematics.
“The sacred urge to play” by Pennie Brownlee is my favourite read, and this quote sighted within it speaks to my heart as a teacher. “It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self” (D. W. Winnicott).
My happy place is Whangamata beach, where I connect with nature and family. I spend many hours gathering the gifts of Papatūānuku (the Earth Mother). I value the moments when tamariki stop and stare in awe (wehi) at the wonder of the natural world. Setting up environments with natural materials and loose parts excites me. I have a keen interest in ephemeral art. More recently I am learning alongside the children to develop a greater sense of environmental awareness through composting and worm farms.
I value the individual strengths of teachers within a team. Sharing teacher expertise is important to the growth and development of everyone. Nobody has all the answers; we can support, research, network, and step outside our comfort zones to give something a try, and if it does not work first time, learn from our mistakes. We are growing and learning alongside the children. I value creative, divergent, and innovative thinking.
Relationships are the foundation of all learning. By implementing a key teacher model, I believe that distributed leadership can be reconceptualised. Each child is an individual, who has inherited traits from their ancestors. The child is surrounded by those who have passed on, and by their whānau in day-to-day life. Strengthening our bonds with whānau is an important part of our role as teachers. Tamariki are part of the whānau and the whānau is part of the tamariki. One cannot be separated from the other.
Compassion, love, and kindness
I am very passionate about children spending time in mixed age settings. By developing a culture of tuakana/teina, older children delight in opportunities to care for and help younger children, and by doing so, practice kindness and learn tolerance from their younger peers. I also believe that our youngest children are the leaders of tomorrow and through observation, imitation and practice we see these children blossom.
Phone: 027 372 5897
I originally trained to become a teacher in England, at The University of Cambridge. I was privileged to be learning alongside an impressive host of scholars and fellows who instilled a passion for research, reading and learning about tamariki and education. From then on, during my nearly 10 years of teaching and learning with tamariki I have always be drawn to continually challenge myself to try something new, take a chance and have a go. Since being in New Zealand I have been inspired and motivated by the ELP team to make a difference for our tamariki. I am thrilled to be joining the team and cannot wait to work with more passionate kaiako as we continue to be advocates for our tamariki and for the early education that they are a part of in New Zealand.
'You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year conversation’
As a kaiako passionate about developing lifelong learners, I believe in creating an environment in which tamariki can reach their full potential and extend their skills in order to succeed as learners and members of a cohesive community. As the above quote suggests I believe that learning through play is of the upmost importance and think that it is through play that tamariki are able to engage in deep level learning; play is a very serious business and I believe, as the saying goes, that play is the highest form of research. We are designed to learn through play and it is our job as kaiako to create environments that are singing out to be explored, investigated and played in.
‘The best classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky’
Spending time in the outdoor environment and playing in nature should be at the top of our agenda. There is more and more research showing the negative effects of not being outside and I am passionate about working with kaiako and tamariki to ensure that are taking time to be outside. When we develop time and space to be in and connect with nature we are helping to develop a commitment to looking after our planet as well as looking after ourselves. I have spent time in the Norwegian Nature Kindergartens and have brought this into my teaching practice and leadership in New Zealand and the UK. Richard Louv reminds us that ‘the health of the child and the health of the planet are inseparable’. If we keep this in our mind when learning and playing with tamariki we will be setting the next generation up for success.
Environment and loose parts
‘The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences’
I wholeheartedly agree with the philosophy that the environment is the third teacher and I have worked tirelessly with my previous teams to ensure that our environment motivates and inspires learners to take their learning to the next level. I am a huge advocate for loose parts and believe that in providing an environment that is full of open-ended resources we are enabling our tamariki to become the problem solvers, inventors and divergent thinkers of the future.
Phone: 021 045 0219
Nicky de Lautour
“Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, (botanical name: viola sorbet) is a shrub which is distinctive in the way the colours of the flowers unfold. The colours emerge in sequence- yesterday the flowers were clear white, today they emerge as light violet and tomorrow they will be blue. In relation to the young child, this shrub serves as a metaphor for what the child learnt yesterday, what he knows today and what he will know in the future. The point of difference between the shrub metaphor and the child’s leaning potential is that the spectrum of shades of colour for a child’s learning is a rainbow continuim. A child’s learning is filled with enormous potential”. (de Lautour and Clark, 2010, p.124.)
It is this quote from a chapter in a text book that Nicky co-authored that guides her on her journey as a teacher, facilitator, and learner in early childhood education and what has inspired and informed her career to date. As she now turns her lens to working alonside teachers, (kaiako) in early childhood communities, partnerships formed through her long stint at AUT as a senior lecturer and co programme leader teaching a BEd (ECE) are being renewed and reaffirmed in this new context that has many similarities but also differences to that of working with students in a tertiary institute.
Nicky graduated from University of Auckland with a B.A, (Ed) and is ECE qualified, (Massey University), and taught in kindergarten and has a Certificate in Adult Education (AUT).
Nicky completed her Masters in Educational Leadership at AUT and researched Distributive Leadership in educational communities through an Appeciative Inquiry lens. This seeks to harnesses the potential and possibilities in teams and with kaiako themselves to find the essence and richness of each member as a starting point for building stronger more cohesive teams with a strength based focus at the forefront. Foucault, (1994), contended that each teacher is actively creating their teaching selves in their daily practice and that we engage in critical thinking to deepen inquiry, knowledge and their emerging philosophies which should be examined and tested so an openess to differing perspectives and inclusion of the voices of children and their whanau are visible and celebrated through a socio- cultural lens.
It is the philosophy behind this approach that guides and informs her work with early childhood communities, students and now kaiako with a strong focus on a partnership model. Nicky strives to workcollaboratively within early childhood communities to build their collective aspirations for all tamariki, their whānau and kaiako with a relationship based focus at the heart of everything she does.
Nicky’s strengths and research interests have been around the Arts in ECE and the adult’s role in children’s learning and she has published and presented nationally and internationally in this area. More recently she was a co researcher looking at ‘Transition to School’ from a community crèche in a longitudinal study and this has further cemented her perspectives on a child-centred, play based curriculum as a powerful basis for teachers who inspire, provoke, and foster curiosity and a love of learning through play. This has been informed by neuroscience, and recent and current theoretical knowledge and perspectives, where it is accepted that children’s brain development is the most accelerated and rapid in the first three years. Armed with this knowledge it should then become a powerful determinant of how we provide for children within our early childhood settings and teach from a place of love with our heart, hands and minds.
Today: Nicky strives to inspire those around her with her energy and commitment for early childhood education and the fostering of communities that empower all members to feel safe, nourished, protected and affirmed. Building a culturally rich, dynamic and exciting curriculum that reflects the aspirations of everyone in the early childhood communities should be the driver and focus of each unique setting. Respect underpins everything in her professional practice and with all her interactions with tamariki, kaiako, whānau, and the wider community.
Nicky brings attributes of being both playful and purposeful when interacting with students, tamariki, colleagues and kaiako in her relationships and uses art, music, drama and natural resources, (emphemeral art) to promote, foster and encourage deep and lively discussions, reflections, creativity and learning. Nicky brings authenticity and integrity to her relationships and encourages and strives for everyone to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance in the teaching and learning spaces.
Tomorrow: Nicky is excited to take this next step in her career to join the ELP team and bring her experience in the university setting to the work she will do with teaching teams and look for new visible ways of fostering inquiry, team goal setting, curriculum design and research to empower them to grow in leadership capabilities through the partnership model. Encouraging kaiako to be deep thinkers, reflective and reflexive, and to be the strongest advocates for our youngest citizens and ensure their voices are heard and celebrated, will be at the core of her professional work and endeavors. Underpinning everything is our incredible bicultural early childhood curriculum; Te Whāriki, the documents; Tātaiako and Tapasā, and the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and these will guide us as we work together to ensure each child knows the capacity of their own potential, uniqueness and power, fostered through a sense of wonder with the world
Nicky’s interests based on research and teaching at the university have related to the Adults Role in Children’s Visual Arts in Early Childhood, Children’s Critical Thinking through the Visual Arts and Re Thinking Pedagogy of Infants and Toddlers in Early Childhood. Nicky is available to facilitate workshops related to these and encourages participants to fully immerse themselves in hands on workshops and consider themselves as both a participant and partner in the synchronicity of a relationship based curriculum. She brings resources, readings, and materials to these workshops to encourage exploration and deeper engagement in a quest to find ways to work with tamariki that foster their curiosity and wonder. She is also available to teach beginning ukulele classes. These can comprise of evening classes where the participants will be given hand outs and taught to tune and play the ukulele learning much loved early childhood songs that delight and amuse children and introduces them to a musical instrument. It is recommended that 3 classes are needed to build confidence and skill to get going over a three week period.
Nicky de Lautour
Phone: 021 783 005
Ophelia and the heuristic play basket
Ephemeral Art Workshop
The wonder of Great Grandparents
Rangitoto and Ephemeral Art at the Beach
Tēna tātou katoa,
I te taha o tōku matua
I te taha o tōku whaea
No Waihi Beach ahau. Engari kei te noho ana ahau i Tāmaki Makaurau inaianei. Ko Maria tōku ingoa. No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā rā koutou katoa.
I have a Bachelor of Teaching and 14 years teaching experience. I have worked in a range of services with my main mahi being in full day ECE services, community-based ECE and kindergartens in Kirikiriroa, Waihi Beach and Waihi, Te Aroha and Tāmaki Makaurau.
My Educational Leadership Project (ELP) experience involves collective inquiries in distributed leadership, bravery and companionship. I have admired the work of ELP for many years and feel honoured to have the opportunity to learn, share and celebrate teaching and learning alongside such an incredibly experienced and passionate team of facilitators.
Having spent most of my childhood growing up on my papa kainga and near the moana, I have very fond memories of my whānau coming together, singing waiata, eating kaimoana, te reo Māori being spoken and celebrated, exploring te taiao and the gifts from Papatūānuku to my heart’s content. These integral experiences of connectedness as an ākonga have shaped who I am as a kaiako. Today those experiences continue to flow strongly within me. They are the pou supporting my foundations from which I view and interact with my world and the people I meet along the way.
I am passionate about creating spaces for kaiako and leaders in ECE and beyond that centre mātauranga Māori, indigenous knowledge systems and indigenous voices.
There is an extensively rich whakapapa and wealth of knowledge that existed in pre-colonial Aotearoa. Māori used this mātauranga to navigate their entire world and in doing so thrived for centuries pre-colonisation. Over time those knowledge systems have been lost through a disregard for non-Western epistemologies. This has contributed to significant and detrimental shifts in how Māori live and exist as Māori. Education has and will continue to play a large part in supporting the reclamation of Māori knowledge systems. As kaiako we have an integral role in ensuring the naturalisation and centring of Te Ao Māori in the education system, as part of recognising tāngata whenua and honoring Te Tiriti. For Māori culture and for Māori people to continue to survive and thrive as Māori, reconnection to indigenous knowledge systems is essential. Understanding the role we have as 21st century leaders and practitioners in this process is crucial. Through unpacking our own biases and privileges, we will empower Māori to reclaim their power and give voice to Māori narratives in spaces where they have been previously marginalised.
I have been a Kaiako/teacher in Early Childhood education for over 35 years. During this time I have worked in a variety of ECE settings. For the past 25 years I have worked in Kindergartens in Tamaki Makaurau. I was head teacher at Pt Chevalier Kindergarten for eleven years and have been in my current position as head teacher at Ferndale Kindergarten for the past four and a half years. During this time I have been inspired by the communities I have been privileged to have worked with.
In implementing Te Whāriki over the years I have come to know this rich, dynamic and exciting curriculum document. The wisdom behind this document has guided me not only through my teaching practice but in my everyday life as I work and learn and grow alongside others.
I have a particular interest in developing a love of nature within the heart of our Mokopuna. As I understand it if you love something you will look after it. Our world needs us each to play our part to protect and care for her.
The opportunities that arise everyday as I work alongside our mokopuna remind me of the wisdom of Peter Grey, an American psychologist , who discusses the following; “it is through play that children learn to solve their own problems, where they discover the world is not so scary after all. It is through play children discover joy, where they learn to get along with peers to see things from another point of view and practice empathy.”
Over the past three years I have been on the leadership team with the Mt Albert Kāhui Ako. An article I wrote about my early experience in this role was published in Early Education Volume 65 Spring/Summer 2019, called Building Bridges, Developing an ECE presence in Kāhui Ako. Here is the link: https://eej.ac.nz/index.php/EEJ/issue/view/1
I am excited about my new role as a facilitator with ELP as over the years it is ELP I have turned to, for inspiration, support and guidance.
Phone: 021 185 8288
Ko Ruahine nga raranga te maunga e rū nei taku ngakau
Ko Mangatainoka to awa a mahea nei aku māharahara
No Pahiātua ahau
Ko Hanny toku māma
Ko Herkes toku ingoa whānau
Ko Dylan, ko Bonnie ratou, ko Logan oku tamariki
Ko Nev toku hoa rangatira
E mihi ana ki nga tohu o nehe, o Te Whitianga O Kupe e noho nei au
Ko Jacki Jensen ahau
Nõ reira, tēnā koutou katoa
I have been involved in early childhood education for the past 26 years, coming to the profession as a ‘mature’ student. I began study when my youngest child started school after a year of working in a kindergarten as an educational support worker. I studied full time, worked part time and raised my three children as a sole parent. Because I know what this ‘road’ is like, I have an avid interest in supporting and advocating for single parent families and their children. I gained a Dip Teaching ECE and a B.Ed.
My parents immigrated to Aotearoa, New Zealand from The Netherlands and worked very hard to assimilate to kiwi culture and to raise their six children in this new and challenging land. They had no family here until my Oma came out from The Netherlands just before I - the second to last child - was born.
My parents life and struggles have had an impact on me as a teacher and they are at the heart of my passion for ‘New to Aotearoa’ families, especially those who have english as an additional language.
I value and respect Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a living and breathing component of all that is this land, and am on a continuous journey to weave aspects of Te Ao Māori authentically through my work, always learning as I go.
I have taught in kindergartens and early learning settings here in Aotearoa, New Zealand, in Beijing, China and Singapore. In Beijing I was very fortunate to work alongside some amazing Chinese teachers and we were privileged to share our work on Bilingual Co Teaching during an international conference. I was also part of the steering committee for International Accreditation for the school.
In Singapore my dreams came true when my daughter, also ece qualified, joined me to teach in the same international educational setting. Again, we were supported by very passionate and enthusiastic international teachers. Part of my role in Singapore was supporting teachers through professional development to enrich both my own and their practice. Teaching and learning outside of Aotearoa New Zealand opened my eyes to how fortunate we are to have such an holistic, contextual early childhood curriculum that truly does place the child and whānau at the centre, the heart, of all. I discovered that throughout the world, our curriculum is revered as amongst the best. Even the Italians involved in Reggio Emilia say they take inspiration from us!
I have been involved with ELP in two different settings and thoroughly loved every aspect of the work I was fortunate to be a part of and am very excited, and humbled, to be joining the team as a facilitator
I currently work with some passionate kaiako in a very small setting here in Whitianga on the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula and look forward to working with many more equally passionate kaiako as I find my feet in this new role.
Tēna tātou katoa,
Ko Carpati te maunga
Ko Marea Negra te moana
Ko Tauranga te rohe
Ko Greerton Early Learning Centre te kaupapa whānau
Ko Catalina Thompson taku ingoa
I have a Bachelor of Teacher and a Postgraduate Certificate in Early Years and Primary from London Metropolitan University. Although my professional career started in England, in primary education, it is the early childhood that has given true meaning to my professional identity. For the past eight years, Greerton Early Learning Centre has been my ‘home away from home’, a place I feel empowered to learn and grow alongside a wonderful, diverse community.
My story of being
I grew up in Romania, a small country at the other end of the world, during communism, an ideology defined by food rationing and deprivation of free speech. Raised as a communist child, I learnt from very early on what it means to be resilient, resourceful and fight for the simplest things in life. But I also learnt about the freedom of play, as a child roaming the neighbourhood, connecting with everything and anything that sparked my curiosity,… away from the supervision eyes of adults. Those were my fondest memories, since the wider world was completely shut….
I believe that when I moved to England, in search of opportunities, that I became aware of who I was as a cultural person and how one must navigate their cultural heritage, language, beliefs and ways of being and doing on foreign ground. All these experiences, past and present have deeply influenced my teaching and learning philosophy.
How do we empower our mokopuna to reach their full potential?
Before we even begin to reflect and answer this question, we must first ponder out loud…Who are you? Where have you come from? What makes you the wonderful person that you are? What are your whānau and community aspirations? How does your story challenge my biases, assumptions and perceptions? I believe that once we understand and embrace fully these answers, that we can truly begin a process of learning and teaching. Mokopuna are empowered to learn, if we, the people around them, establish meaningful connections grounded in aroha and whakapapa. So I find our learners identities to be a huge part of local curricula as it provides meaningful opportunities for us to stretch the boundaries of learning within our rich cultural capitals.
A pedagogy of freedom, trust, space and time
We know that mokopuna come into this world complete and with an incredible capacity to learn so, I believe our professional responsibility is to create an environment for all their competencies to unfold. Freedom to explore at their own pace of wonder, in a way that fits with their learning identity is key as well as trust to take on the kind of thrilling challenges that give mokopuna ‘butterflies in their stomachs’ and shrink kaiako’s hearts to the size of peas. Risk and challenge has been a passion of mine for a few years now as I constantly seek to disrupt and question conventional thinking around risk, hazards and safety. In the wise words of Gerver Tully “despite all efforts and intentions, children are always going to figure out how to do the most dangerous things they can in whatever environment they can.” Without provocation to take on edgy, adventurous risks, “children lose the feeling of aspiration which is so very important in terms of the drive to move forward in life.” (Claire Warden). My teacher inquiry research on adventurous play concluded in the writing of Greerton Early Learning Centre’s policy on Risk and Challenge which sets the benchmark for the type of environment we strive to create.
“I bet I can live to one hundred if I only I can get outdoors again” (Geraldine Page as Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful)
Oh, Papatūānuku and her incredible gifts…For the past 7 years, I have been involved in Greerton’s forest farm adventures. In a place where time stands still, and the hustle and bustle of life only exists as a distant traffic noise, tinkering with ideas seems to be the right thing to do. Innovation and creativity flourish here, flexibility of thinking and growth mindset push beyond any conceivable boundary, camaraderie becomes the way to learn in the wild when we don’t quietly commune with nature. It is inside these connections with Papatūānuku that mokopuna and kaiako reveal themselves in new lights, discover things they never new lived inside themselves and grow a deep understanding of Kaitiakitanga. I had the privilege of sharing some of these experiences with fellow colleagues in America during a Learning Stories Conference in 2018.
I am humbled and privileged to be the newest member of the ELP whānau, to learn alongside such inspirational voices and grow our collective wisdom around how we can best nurture mokopuna as “competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.” (Te Whāriki, 2017, p.5)